My nearest and dearest know that I'm a little obsessed with radishes. I buy them at the grocery store as frequently as I buy lemons (so, every time I'm there). I pickle them. I roast them. I eat them with butter and salt. But when someone asked me, "What's the difference between regular radishes and French breakfast radishes?" I had no idea how to answer. Is there a difference between regular radishes and French breakfast radishes at all? And how do these types fit in with all the other different types of radishes, like daikon and watermelon, just to name a couple? It was time for my love affair with radishes to transform from mere obsession to expertise. Here's what I found out.
The most common radish—the one that you'll find at every single farmer's market in abundance and at grocery stores and bodegas alike—is called a Cherry Belle. Cherry Belles are spherical in shape and are that deep, bright pinky-red color I'm a total sucker for. They're endless adaptable: people put them out to dip in hummus, roast them, and slice them into salads. They're sharp and peppery in the best way. Breakfast radishes, on the other hand, are more oval in shape. They're that same lovely red with a white tip, and they're often—but not always—a bit more mild, and easier to eat raw. The French are known to eat them with sweet butter and sea salt, or on a baguette. Which is obviously delicious.
While Cherry Belle and French Breakfast radishes are spring or summer plants, daikon radishes are winter ones. Daikon radishes are large—usually 6-15 inches in length. Instead of being red on the outside, they're white all the way through. They're a bit sweet, and definitely spicy. You've likely had them pickled or braised on banh mi, with sushi, or in kimchi. However, you can also eat them raw. And you probably know about watermelon radishes from those Sqirl grain bowls. They're actually an heirloom variety of daikon radishes, but instead of that striking white color, they take after their namesake, with a green outer ring and bright pink in the middle. While they can be prepared in every way, people usually slice them thinly and eat them raw because it shows off their good looks.
So, whether your shaving radishes into a salad or drowning them in vinegar or smothering them in butter, it's pretty much impossible to go wrong. So go forth. Be rad.